A Canadian school teacher whose teaching philosophy underscores hope and acts of kindness in an isolated corner of Quebec won a $1 million prize Sunday in what has become one of the most-coveted and high-profile awards for teaching excellence. Maggie MacDonnell was awarded the annual Global Teacher Prize during a ceremony in Dubai, reports the AP, beating out thousands of applicants. The prize was established three years ago to recognize one exceptional teacher a year who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, employs innovative classroom practices, and encourages others to join the teaching profession. Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was on hand to present the prize to MacDonnell. Her name was announced by French astronaut Thomas Pasquet in a video message from the International Space Station.
MacDonnell was among 10 finalists that hailed from Pakistan, the UK, Jamaica, Spain, Germany, China, Kenya, Australia, and Brazil. Last year, Palestinian teacher Hanan al-Hroub won for her efforts in encouraging students to renounce violence and embrace dialogue. The inaugural prize went to Nancie Atwell, an English teacher from Maine. The award is presented by the Varkey Foundation. Its founder, Sunny Varkey, established the for-profit GEMS Education company, which has more than 250 schools around the world. The foundation's CEO, Vikas Pota, said in a statement that the award aims to shine a spotlight on great teachers and share their stories with the world. Also Sunday, 15 countries—including Chile, Iraq, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Somalia, Ukraine, and Yemen—announced they would launch national teaching prizes with the support of the Varkey Foundation. (Read more Global Teacher Prize stories.)